It’s been 9 years since former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir ‘retired’ from the political arena. His ‘retirement’ came after 22 years steering the wheel as a Prime Minister of Malaysia, thus making him one of the longest world leader holding the position as a Prime Minister.
He is the the former Prime Minister responsible for introducing the F1 formula race to Malaysian shores, the construction of the Petronas Twin Towers, the construction of Putrajaya and Cyberjaya as well as a long list of other mega projects. As a still influential and widely respected statesmen, he had the opportunity to live this retirement in peace and no longer involved in the world of dirty politics. Yet, in this run up towards the Malaysian 13th General Election (GE13), he chose otherwise.
At one end, we see Mahathir as a respected statesmen, reminding the public on the importance of remembering Malaysian history, yet the readers of his blog as well as his media statements might think otherwise. Remembering history is vital, but remembering history through one myopic scope and not a panoramic view is not an idea to be encouraged.
Lately, Mahathir can be seen digging the old ghosts of racial sentiments. He ominously warns the Malays that Lim Kit Siang’s win in Gelang Patah will bring bad news to Malays and at the same time, he is seen critisizing and condemning the Malays as forgetful and lazy.
He endorses the screening of the controversial film Tanda Putera to Malaysians. According to him, “if a race controls certain interests and the other does not, it will spell out anger and this is not good for the country”.
Also not forgetting, is his harsh criticism towards the opposition in which, according to Mahathir, has the tendency to politicise racial based and religious issues. Yet, before he shoots the opposition for raising racial sentiments and politicising religious issues, it was he himself who endorsed the call by Pertubuhan Pribumi Perkasa Malaysia (Perkasa) President, Ibrahim Ali to burn bibles containing the word Allah in those bibles. Adding insult to injury, Mahathir also noted that the burning to illegal books is a normal procedure.
His infallible support towards the controversial Ibrahim Ali does not end there. He is also seen supporting Ibrahim Ali to contest a seat in this coming GE13. According to Mahathir, the purpose of Ibrahim Ali in establishing Perkasa was not to promote himself, but to campaign on behalf of Barisan Nasional (BN). Hence, Ibrahim Ali is a man that deserved to be given a position.
The relationship between Mahathir and Perkasa is a symbiosis. Mahathir gives his support to Perkasa and Perkasa gives the opportunity for Mahathir to speak at their general meeting.
He warns of the possibility of the tragedy of 13th May 1969 to reoccur if it is forgotten by Malaysians and if the tragedy is not handled properly. Yet it is he himself who is fanning the sparks of racism by stating that the political leader of Democratic Action Party (DAP), Lim Kit siang as an individual who is content if the Chinese hates the Malays. Just as in the same news report, Mahathir also noted that the political party of DAP is always undertaking measures to create hostile environment between the Malays and the Chinese. He then asserts that peace and progressive development in Malaysia will never materialize if were to squabble amongst ourselves. And yet, at the same time, it is he himself who encourages discrimination and prejudice between those two races.
This the total opposite from what was stressed by Mahathir two years ago when he advised the political party Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) to refrain itself from entertaining extremist groups if MCA wanted UMNO to do the same with Perkasa which was categorized as racist by MCA. Yet Mahathir himself continues his support for extremist parties such as his support for Perkasa.
In his ever continuing efforts to fan racial sentiments, Mahathir asserts that since DAP is carrying on the Malaysian Malaysia agenda stemming from the political party People’s Action Part (PAP), DAP is also fighting for the concept of meritocracy yang decreases the opportunities for the Malays in the field of economy and education. According to him, meritocracy is not about a partnership, it is instead, concerns a situation where the winner takes all.
Mahathir paints a picture of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (KEADILAN) and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) as political parties that manipulate and use the Malays while DAP is painted as a party that only wants to defeat the Malays as if the Malays are their enemy.
Yet, when one reads his blog writing as well as reads his media statements or his opinions in the media, readers are able to picture him as not as a proponent of unity between races in Malaysia. The question is, what does Mahathir want to achieve?
He wants development for Malaysia. He wants Malaysia to be a developed nation as that is why he implemented the mega projects such as the Petronas Twin Towers, Putrajaya as well as Cyberjaya. He wants the Malaysian name to be recognised on the world stage. Yet at the same time, he flames the fire of racial sentiments, pitting the Chinese and Malays against each other. He describes the Chinese as a race that is is prejudicial towards the Malays and asserts that the Malays needs to protect themselves against the Chinese. And in his mind, this protection comes in the form of Malays supporting BN, Umno as well as Perkasa as only those three political parties can protect the interests of the Malays. Let’s not forget that he himself describes the Malays as ungrateful and lazy bunch.
This igniting of racial sentiments has placed the Malaysian name on the world stage along with Mahathir’s mega projects and other achievements, however, it does paint a rosy picture of Malaysia as planned by Mahathir. Instead, is paints Malaysia as a country centered on racism and race politics. The Malaysian identity as a moderate Islamic state is sullied by the messy relationship Malaysia has with racism. Is this the legacy planned to be left behind by Mahathir? A broken and a disunited country? Because that is where Malaysia is heading if race politics is played in repeat by Mahathir.
He want the Malays to be united and prosperous yet he himself has shown the tendency to belittle, criticise and humiliate any efforts demonstrated by the Malays. He wants unity but he continuously supports the efforts of a political party that is associated with racist acts.
In a nutshell, Mahathir’s real intention is to stay relevant in the eyes of Malaysians as well as his beloved political arena. He does not want to be forgotten by Malaysians nor his political colleagues. He has held the position of a Prime Minister for 22 years. It cannot be an easy task for him to let go of all that power and influence to someone else. Power and influence are both very addictive. Having the power to decide the direction of those who depend on you is an addictive drug. So is having the power to steer the direction of a nation and having the freedom to defend you own private political interest. Letting off of something that you have hold on for so long is never an easy thing to do.
Mahathir’s addiction on power and influence lead him to this path. He reminisces his days in the office of the Prime Minister. He is not a senile old man. He is a statesmen and former Prime Minister that still has influences particularly within the political parties of Umno and BN. As per the words of George Orwell “ all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”. In his mind, that is what he thinks of himself. He opines that he deserves more than others for his ‘service’ to this country.
He realized that the only way for him to attract attention from his political buddies is to dig and unearth racial politics whilst placing the strategically placed blame on the opposition parties. Since he is a political animal, it is not surprising for a seasoned politician who have spent so long of his life in the political world that he would anything to crawl back into the political world post retirement.
What else could be the reason Dr Mahathi digs up racial sentiments if it were not for his addiction for the political world? The old thorn of race should not be dug up to come back and haunt Malaysians whom wants a different stroke for Malaysia based on transparency, honesty and meritocracy. It is this meritocratic nature that scares Mahathir because he believes the Malays do not have the drive or capabilities to improve themselves. He believes he is the only qualified driver of the Malay fate.
Those notions are however far from true. The Malays do have the drive as much as the want to steer their own futures. The Malays have the ability to rise up to the challenge without any political meddling or the words of a politician. So is the Chinese. The Chinese do not hate the Malays and vice versa.
Mahathir may be a former Prime Minister, a politician and a statesmen, but those does not give him special rights over others. He does not hold the key of Malaysia’s future. It is the Malaysians themselves who hold the key for their own future. If he realizes this, then he would not have taken this path. Because in the end, is the collective opinion of Malaysians that matter and not the opinions of one politician.